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This is an account of many lives – the author’s and of writers, editors, publishers, booksellers and readers – spent with words, written printed and bound. Drawing upon years of reading, and a long career in publishing, Sridhar Balan gives us stories and facts about some extraordinary book people and places. There are accounts of Dean Mahomed the first Indian author in English, who became a ‘shampooing surgeon’ to English royalty and set up the ‘Hindostanee Coffee House’ in London where he served everything but coffee! E.V. Rieu a scholar of the classics and the founder of OUP in India who was also a wonderful writer of verse for children. There are anecdotes about Roy Hawkins (Hawk) , Ravi Dayal a Patrician among publishers, along with Ram Advani, the ‘Nawabi’ bookseller of Lucknow and Dhanesh Jain a ‘gentlemen publisher’ a pioneer in textbook publishing.
Along the way, we have a delightful account of a Jim Corbett book launch which disproves Ruskin Bond’s assertion that ‘tigers cannot act’, of Vivekananda’s literary interests, his role in setting up the Indian Institute of Science and an amazing encounter with a lawyer-musician in Kochi. Balan also recalls a memorable meeting between Andre Malraux and Nehru in Paris organised by Raja Rao and tells us the story of two amazing libraries, the Bibliotheca Alexandrina and Biblioteca El Tintal in Bogota, a rubbish dump converted into a library.
Sridhar Balan will be in conversation with Somak Ghoshal and share nostalgic, witty and fascinating information and memories from his latest book.
After a few years teaching at a university, Sridhar Balan joined the publishing industry and had long careers with Oxford University Press and Ratna Sagar. He has also been a literary columnist with several Indian newspapers. He is currently a consultant with Ratna Books, an imprint for translations. This is his first book.
Somak Ghoshal is a journalist, editor and critic based in Bengaluru. He writes on books, gender, culture and the arts. Since 2006, he has worked in various roles in media and book publishing, with The Telegraph, Mint, HuffPost India, Penguin India and HarperCollins Publishers India. His work has also appeared in Caravan magazine, Open magazine, CNN Style, Scroll and Daily O among others.